Frank Workman on Sports: 54-51? Ptui.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Frank Workman, who did not
get that tan in Lake Forest Park
By Frank Workman

The Monday Night Football game this week between the Chiefs and the Rams was wildly entertaining, if not artistic. It ended with the highest score in MNF history, 54-51, with the Rams on the winning end of things.

For all its scoring, it paled in comparison to an epic Shorecrest game from October 2005, against Mariner High.

The Scots emerged victorious, 69-60. Those who attended were treated to their money’s worth and then some.

On this holiday weekend, what follows is taken from memory. Some details may have faded over the years, but the essence of what follows is true.

That year’s Shorecrest team was their best in the last 25 years. They won 4A WesCo, in spite of being a 3A team. They were the Gutty Little Scots that season, racking up wins week after week. Only one defeat marred their record going into the state tournament, where they were flattened by a robust Rainier Beach team.

The Scots were led by Jesse Hoffman, a rock-solid, bruising runner and defensive back. He would go on to help Eastern Washington win a National Championship at the 1-AA level. (Former UW coach Tyrone Willingham, that astute judge of talent, had no use for Hoffman. Perhaps that acumen contributed to the Huskies’ 11-37 record in his four disastrous seasons, including an 0-12 mark in his final year, 2008.) Hoffman became a Seahawk for a short time. In high school, he was a man among boys.

Chasen Gardner was the quarterback. Many times that season he would fling the ball as far downfield as he could, and speedy wide-receiver Kevin Ramos always managed to catch the deep balls in perfect stride on his way to the end zone. Ramos doubled as the team’s punter, and he seemed to have carte blanche from head coach Mike Wollan to tuck the ball under his arm and run for a first down. Several times that season Ramos would weave his way downfield, not only gaining the necessary yardage, but taking it to the house for six.

The most versatile and complementary player on the team was Grady Small, still pound-for-pound the best high school football player I’ve ever seen. He played running back and he would flank out as a receiver, too. He was the snapper on punts and place-kicks, he seemed to be involved in every tackle on defense, and there were nights when he sold popcorn at halftime and even helped sweep out the stadium after everyone else had gone home.

Mariner had an outstanding running back in Raymond Fry, who played his college ball for Idaho. By memory, he was maybe 5’ 8” and a chiseled 170 pounds. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on him. He wasn’t small by any means, just short. When he carried the football, he was faster than snakes or the blink of an eye. He was as elusive as mercury. It wouldn’t have come as any surprise to learn that he wore a cape and had a blue shirt with a red S on his chest.

The Scots fell behind the Marauders early in the contest, and Shorecrest fans felt a gnawing dread in the first half as their team repeatedly had to score just to catch up to Mariner. But Hoffman righted the ship late in the first half with an exciting touchdown romp. A perfect form tackle consists of the defender executing a hit-lift-and-drive on a runner. Hoffman turned the tables and put a shoulder into a tackler on the five yard line, lifted him off the ground, and landed the tackler across the goal line as he drove him into the end zone.

The Scots pulled away in the second half, extending their lead to three touchdowns twice in the fourth quarter. With such a lead, Coach Wollan subbed in some backup defenders to give his starters (most of whom played both ways and never came off the field) a breather. Both times Fry went coast-to-coast for six points on his team’s first play following the kickoffs.

The Scots had to re-insert their starters with their lead narrowed, and of course they kept scoring. It was that kind of night.

When the game ended, fans stood and cheered in amazement and appreciation for what they’d witnessed. Few were ready to leave right away.

For two fans, old friends and devotees of high school football going back to the Fifties, the game stood out for another reason.

Gamblers at heart (degenerates, some could say) they would make sport right before kickoff of every game they attended together. One would set the line for how many combined points would be scored by both teams, and the other would choose to take the ‘over’ or the ‘under’.

That night, the ‘over’ easily won the wager before the first half ended. So a new total was posited at halftime, the first time a second wager had ever been made in one game.

When the ‘over’ covered by the end of the third quarter, yet a third total was proposed.

The game was one for the books.

Maybe if the Chiefs and Rams lock horns again this season in the Super Bowl, they could dream big, put on their Big Boy Pants, and try to top what Shorecrest and Mariner managed to do in 2005.

I’ll take the Over.


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